NAASA95’s Epic First Cup Final

The first season of North American Adult Soccer Association-Riverside came to a close Sunday night with the NAASA95 Cup final at Ab Brown Soccer Complex.

And if you play for Inland FC, as I do, today is not the best ever.

We lost, 1-0, to Riverside Madrid on goal I allowed midway through the second half.

From a goalkeeper’s perspective, it sucks. I know I played out-of-my-mind and it still wasn’t enough to get the job done. I finished with six or seven saves — some of them critical — but all I can think about is how I reacted slowly in my dive attempt; That the ball was out of my reach before I was even at full stretch, and how I watched it rattle the netting in the back of the goal.

The harder part to assess are the other aspects of the game (like all of the play which happened on the other end of the field) but we were stout in defense and I’m proud that we allowed just one goal in each of our two postseason games.

We had our chances to score vs. Madrid — mostly in the first half — but we lost the middle of the field in the second half and were forced to repel attack after attack.

While the loss is sure to linger through the winter, there are several data worth noting for me.

I finished the season as the only Inland FC player to be on the field for every minute of every game. That’s more than 1,110 minutes, and it means I’ve now started and finished 27 consecutive games for my club dating back three seasons.

Overall, I allowed 22 goals in nine regular-season NAASA95 games*, finished with a 2.44 goals-against average, and even had one assist.

It was a memorable campaign and would not have been so without the efforts of my teammates (in alphabetical order): Daniel Arreaga, Ranjit Chahal, Alvaro Contreras, Leon Enderica, Sherif Fathy, Adrian Garcia, Hector Garcia, Aaron Lambert, Eric Lambert, Ryan Leonard, Hugo Oliveros, Juan Otero, Rene Perez, Cesar Reynoso, Kwaku Sarpong-Agyeman and Fabian Sythoff.

Each played integral roles, and contributed to the betterment of the league. Our quality forced the other teams to sign better players, which in turn gave the league the epic final it needed.

Now to use it as a springboard into next season…

* — Inland FC’s had one game cancelled after thieves stole essential components (copper wiring) to the lights at Ab Brown Soccer Complex.

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Filed under Inland FC, NAASA95, Soccer

NAASA95 Off To Competitive Start

NAASA95 got its unofficial start on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, with an exhibition match pitting Inland FC vs. Riverside’s Best at A.B. Brown Soccer Complex in Riverside (Calif.).

NAASA, the North American Adult Soccer Association, is a nationwide set of leagues sanctioned by USSF and plays under FIFA Laws. Riverside’s new startup, the Pete King Memorial Soccer League, features four divisions of men’s and women’s soccer.

I’m in my fifth season with Inland FC, which previously played in the Riverside Adult Soccer League before switching to start the Fall 2013 season.

On Sunday, I started my 16th game at goalkeeper for IFC and provided the league with many of its firsts.

I allowed the first goal.

I made the first save.

I allowed the second goal, and the third, but then something happened.

We got one back. Daniel Arreaga scored on a pass from Ranjit “Bolo” Chahal and we all picked our heads up for a minute.

But it was only a minute as our tired defense was broken down again, and Juan Otero was called for a foul in the penalty area to set up the league’s first ever penalty kick.

Moment of truth for both the kicker and the goalkeeper.

My initial thought was to dive right. He was a confident player who had already scored and I was not going to let him beat me to my strong side. Before he struck the ball, however, I noticed his body tilt as he approached and quickly dove to my left where I stopped his shot before punching it away.

I had already made five saves in the game to that point but it was by far the most important. We took possession of the ball and went down the other end and scored.

It was the pivotal moment in the game, and for me the first time I’ve stopped a penalty kick in my career. (I cannot remember every time, but I’ve probably whiffed three or four previous attempts.) I was breathing heavily after the fact, and probably needed the adrenaline because I had to react again less than two minutes later when I came off my line to defend a 1-on-1. I stopped the shot and smothered the rebound before releasing a timely outlet pass that led to the game-tying goal.

With all players feeling the heat — relative and actual (100-degree temps by the final whistle) — there was a decision to finish the game in with “golden-goal” or last-goal-wins scenario.

Fortunately, we have “Bolo” playing for our side. Chahal calmly tapped in the game-winner to give Inland FC a 4-3 victory in the league’s first-ever game.

It was a game of many firsts — not lost among them “Bolo’s” first two-goal effort — and one that will go down as NAASA95’s Inaugural Friendly.

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September 9, 2013 · 10:28 AM

Klinsmann Would Have To Be A Fool

Landon Donovan’s return to LA Galaxy has me thinking …

1. If the two-time MLS champions can win games without him (not to mention Becks and even Keane) then he left the team at the right time. Galaxy’s 2-0-1 record and advancement into the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals attest to that.

2. If this is indeed his last year at Galaxy — his four-year contract expires after this season — then it becomes obvious why he didn’t retire: the opportunity to cement his legacy as the best player in U.S. history with a third consecutive domestic title.

3. If he’s rested and engaged mentally then Jurgen Klinsmann would have to be a fool not to pencil in a new No. 10 0n the right side. The USMNT is scoring too few, and Graham Zusi is nice, but c’mon. The World Cup is next year (already!) and the team’s top play-maker is healthy.

4. Anyone who says he abandoned either club or country is off their nut and/or a rabid fan of El Tri, and taking cheap shots out of spite. Or… or… secretly missing their favorite player.

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Filed under Los Angeles Galaxy, Soccer, USMNT

UCLA Should Finally Hire Kareem

Looks like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s non-stop yearning to be UCLA’s basketball coach could finally be quenched.

And why not?

Abdul-Jabbar is one of the game’s all-time greats, and represents a link to legendary coach John Wooden, whom he played for from 1966-’69.

And isn’t that what every Bruins fan is yearning for? A return to the good ol’ days?

Kareem represents that, and then he brings his own postmodern twist.

Seriously, what’s a three-year contract to a guy who might be the right guy? Cause the last guy sure wasn’t the right guy, not after about Year 3 of his contract.

Abdul-Jabbar does have a spotty coaching history — personal coach to Michael Olowokandi — and a perhaps even more spotty personal history — cannabis, anyone? — but someone inside the halls at UCLA should make the right choice this time, and give its greatest living alum the job.

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Filed under Basketball, NCAA, UCLA Bruins

Refereeing A Semifinal

If you’re a soccer referee, you love, love, love to be assigned to a semifinal game of a big tournament.

The players play their hearts out knowing that a victory can mean the difference between first or fourth place. The coaches are out of their skin, living vicariously through the players. The spectators… they’re simply insane.

The referee and assistants have to be an alert force that is simultaneously impartial and judicial.

I arrived early Sunday morning for my 8 a.m. game thinking I was going to be Assistant No. 1 for the AYSO Section 1 Area R U-14 Boys semifinal game between Corona 1 and Moreno Valley 2. Through a clerical error, I was handed the assignment after the scheduled referee was determined to be unavailable.

I had half-thought about the possibility of this happening on the drive to the game, and remembered the USSF training mantra: Be Ready For Anything. I also probably said to myself, ‘Nah. He’ll be there. He’s always there,’ cause dude’s always there. Well, he wasn’t. And I was at least half-ready.

We check in the teams on the field. It’s cold. The players are still wearing sweatshirts, gloves and beanies, and I make them remove it all. “I’m not wearing (a beanie),” I say to a coach/parent who asks, “Why not?” I do allow the goalkeepers to wear their skull caps, however. I’m not completely cruel.

The game is fast-paced from my first whistle and I don’t call for a foul until after the first goal is scored in the fifth minutes. I’m talking some really good soccer here. Lots of control, passing and build-up play from both sides.

Corona 1 starts to dominate possession after their first goal and looks to strike again behind its two tall forwards, No. 10 and No. 12.

No. 12 delivers the pass upon which the first goal is scored and applies the finishing touch to Corona 1’s next two goals before Moreno Valley 2 finally got one back.

Halftime arrives after 35 minutes and my AR tells me of a parent who is creeping near the goal line, yelling technical advice on Moreno Valley 2’s sideline. I have to act upon this information and decide to speak to Moreno Valley 2’s coach. I simply tell him that all coaches must stay within 10 yards of the halfway line and all spectators must stay between the 18s. He responds positively to that.

The second half begins and Corona 1 immediately attacks through No. 10. Trailing the play up the left wing, both No. 10 and a Moreno Valley 2 defender go down in what looks like a wreckless tackle from behind. No. 10 pops back up, however, and says that the Moreno Valley 2 defender “got all ball.” “He didn’t foul you?” I ask. “Nah. All ball,” he said. I change my call to a dropped ball, told No. 10 that I appreciated his honesty and play resumed.

Later, I initially (and very briefly) signaled for a goal before my AR raised his flag for an infraction he saw in the goal area. I raced over and was advised to disallow the goal because of goalkeeper interference; the goal scorer was just “four or five feet” from the keeper and had obstructed the GK’s line of sight directly preceding the pass that led to the goal. I had not seen that infraction, and trusted my AR. “No goal!” I bellowed, swinging my arms out in front of me in an ‘X’. Corona 1’s sideline blows its top. Stay calm and keep refereeing.

Corona 1 adds another goal on a counter-attack and the teams settle upon a 4-1 final. Moreno Valley 2 players sulk off the field. The team’s best player stays down at the top of the penalty area for several moments before I walk over and tell him how well I thought he played. I perked up enough to walk away.

After the team handshakes, all the players came to shake my hand or give me a fist bump (which I prefer) and both coaches were respectful — even the one I reprimanded for language in the first half. In between, about five or six assistant coaches and parents came to shake my hand.

I had thought I was going to assistant on a big match but it turned out I was the one in charge. I managed the game, its players and agents, and proved up to the task.

Next time, next year, I’ll be a little more than half-ready.

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Filed under AYSO, Referee

Doing The Sports Writer Thing, Almost

This week is shaping into one like I’ve never had as a sport writer.

I’m writing a preview and a feature for The Press-Enterprise and ahead of a CIF-Southern Section championship football game which I’ll be attending and also writing about for The P-E.

In my 10-plus years of writing sports, I have never done that.

I’ve written columns about big races in Fontana and then been there on Sunday. I’ve written previews for any numbers of teams/events. But I’ve never covered a CIF championship football game. And I’ve certainly never written a whole package ahead of one.

The preview is due midday Wednesday, the feature midday Thursday, and I have until 10:15 PM Friday to file a game story from Perris Citrus Hill High School, the site of the game. The Citrus Hill Hawks (13-0 overall) host the Phelan Serrano Diamondbacks (13-0) for the CIF-SS Eastern Division title on the line.

Then, on Saturday, I’ll be at the CIF-SS Central Division title game in Moreno Valley, where Fontana Kaiser (12-1) hopes to dethrone host Rancho Verde (10-3), the reigning champions. I’ll be writing a deadline feature from that game for another media outlet.

Both games, however, pale in comparison to the CIF-SS Inland Division championship game. That one is in Murrieta on Friday, and will be a third consecutive meeting between Corona Centennial (12-1) and Vista Murrieta (13-0) in the Inland final. Centennial won in 2010. Vista took it convincingly last year. Friday night is the rubber match.

But for me it’s still two CIF title games in two days, thereby doubling my career number and making me (almost) feel like a full-time sports writer again.

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Filed under Football, Journalist

Tres Ninos, Tres Diferentes Eventos

Holding your baby in your arms for the first time; that’s something that never gets old.

We had our third baby boy on Sunday, June 17, 2012, or Father’s Day here in the United States, and the experience was very much like the previous two, which is to say that it was as different as the first two were different.

Speaking from my perspective only, the first seems like a bad dream. It was early in the morning. I was in scrubs and sitting in an operating room next to my wife’s head.

The second one also was early in the morning, but it was practically glorious. That son emerged with the sun, and I held him and watched the Corona Hills reflect yellow and orange hues as he slept oh-so-peacefully.

This  little guy was born at 9:11 p.m. PDT and was bigger than the first two by more than eight ounces. He was pink and crying and ready to meet the world. He quickly calmed down and layed quietly while he was examined by the specialists. Seriously. He just let it happen. Almost like he knew what to expect. Then he held my hand and coo-ed while I sang to him.

How is it possible that three boys that look so much alike could have been so different at birth? Then again, how can the first one be so gentle while our second wants to make a blaster out of everything?

It makes me wonder how my newest son’s personality will develop.

If he’s anything like the first two… he’ll be nothing like the first two.

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